• Baylor student wins Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest

    Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest logo and photo of Matthew Ho

    About a month before the 2021 Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest, Dr. Yuko Prefume (BA ’04, MSED ’06, EDD ’15), a senior lecturer in Japanese at Baylor, asked then-junior Matthew Ho if he wanted to enter the competition. A little hesitant at first, and not knowing much about what would be involved, Ho said yes.

    That “yes” turned into a second-place finish in the regional speech contest, which qualified him for state. In mid-March, Ho competed at state and placed first in the College/University division.

    Coming from Irvine, Calif., Ho grew up around Japanese culture and enjoyed watching anime, playing games, and listening to Japanese music with his friends. In high school, he started self-studying Japanese on a whim, but it was classes at Baylor that really helped him understand the language. A biochemistry major, he says he hopes to use Japanese in the future to better connect with patients as a physician.

    The oration Ho gave for the Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest was personal and profound. Titled “Cooking is the Heart’s Medicine,” he focused on the ways cooking has helped him feel alive during tough times. Sometimes life gets repetitive and monotonous, he said, and trying new recipes and doing something that doesn’t involved staring at a computer was great for his mental health.

    “I am most proud of how calm and collected I was throughout my speech, and especially the Q&A afterwards,” says Ho. “I was so paranoid I would slip up or have stage fright in the middle of the speech, but thankfully that didn’t happen. The judges all asked me questions about the topics I was passionate about — namely, food — and I was able to elaborate clearly and with detail to each of their questions. I attribute 100% of that to Prefume-Sensei mentoring me throughout the whole process.”

    With the guidance of Prefume, Ho was able to develop his presentation skills and speech delivery.

    “He is an exceptional student,” she says, “one who takes every opportunity to enrich himself both intellectually and personally.”

    When June 2021 rolled around, Ho got a call form the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston to tell him that because of his performance at the 2021 Texas State Japanese Language Speech Contest, he was nominated for the KAKEHASHI Project. Participating in the Japanese Language Communication cohort, Ho will travel to Japan sometime early next year, participating in homesteads, school exchanges, lectures, and visits to cultural landmarks. When he gets back, he will create an “Action Plan” and document the experience, posting on social media to spread Japanese culture.

    And Matthew isn’t done competing! Next month he is a finalist, along with fellow Baylor student Ben Smith, at the Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement (J.LIVE) Talk.

    Sic ’em, Matthew!